Friends and family know him as Hank “The Tank” Bjork, and after surviving a run in with a semi-truck near his St. James home earlier this month, the 90-year-old has certainly proven the nickname is apt.
“I thought he was a goner for sure,” Bjork’s niece and main caregiver, Maureen Karbonik, 52, told Metro Winnipeg this weekend. “The caretaker from his apartment building called me right after it happened and said he’d been hit, and that he was underneath the truck.
“It didn’t look very good.”
The “fiercely independent” veteran of the Second World War is a well-known fixture in St. James, where he’s lived for nearly 40 years and can be seen most days slowly walking a well-worn path between his apartment, the Royal Canadian Legion across the street, and the Chinese restaurant just down the block.
Bjork was crossing Portage Avenue at Berry Street on his regular route Oct. 16 when the light turned and the semi truck slowly started across the intersection.
Witnesses told Karbonik her uncle was pinned under the truck and dragged a short distance before the driver realized what had happened.
“It usually takes him at least two lights to get across,” she explained. “I guess he wasn’t all the way to the boulevard and apparently the semi driver didn’t see him.”
No charges have been laid against the driver of the semi-truck.
Witnesses at the scene told Metro emergency crews had to lift up the truck to get Bjork out from underneath it, but amazingly—and despite being critically injured—he was conscious and talking.
Bjork suffered a broken back and elbow in the accident, but now, less than two weeks later, doctors expect he’ll make a full recovery after a couple months in hospital.
“He was very lucky,” said Karbonik. “He’s in a cast for a little while but they fully intend on having him back up on his feet as soon as possible.
“And I know he fully intends to be back at home as soon as possible.”